The nuts and bolts
Many businesses fail because they have no control of their sales process.
A good sales process:
- Ensures your team is ‘engineered for success’
- This should be present from the moment you employ them to every deal they close
- It’s critical to place the prospect and customer at the centre of the process.
A sales process is the ‘sales way’ of the organisation. Every sales way is unique to the particular company, whether it’s a start-up or a large corporate. The sales process is a blueprint for how the company can best serve its customers, relative to its product or service offering. Ultimately, the key reason for developing a sales process is to ensure you drive maximum revenue.
In my experience many companies, small and large, do not have a well-defined sales process in place. My advice is to begin developing a sales process as a key priority within your company. Keep it simple, do a few things exceptionally well rather than many things in an ordinary way. If executed well, the results will follow far better than you can imagine.
A well thought out sales process enables:
- Improvement in forecasting accuracy
- Repeatability of successes
- Sales managers converting from administrators to effective coaches
- Sales teams shifting from sellers to value creators
- Higher customer satisfaction due to improved professionalism
- More frequent and higher conversion rates
- Every activity of the sales force can be efficiently carried out by new employees
- Management can adapt and improve the way the sales team engages with customers and ensure that the customers are getting the best benefit
- Driving customer satisfaction is the key element on which all improvement is based.
Create a sales process methodology
Always start with the customer. Define all the elements required within your sales organisation relative to a customer’s needs. What customer needs can your company potentially deliver a solution for? Work backwards from that point of departure and you will be able to create all the required sales processes accordingly.
The best way to tackle the creation of a sales process methodology is to define the headings relative to your customers’ needs and then plot them backwards from the very end, such as after sales service and right back to how you recruit a new sales person. There is no blueprint or ‘how to’ template here as each company will (should) have its own customer centric sales way.
Creating a value-driven sales process
There are definitive elements which must always be included in a sales process and the starting point is to ensure your company creates and develops a value-driven, diagnostic-based system for selling.
Your sales engagement process needs to include how you discover, diagnose, design and deliver solutions for your prospects and ultimately customers. Essentially, it’s looking at all the key elements within the sales organisation and then creating a process for them that can be repeated again and again with improvement when necessary. That’s why the sales process methodology you develop remains a living document that must be tweaked and enhanced as required.
Beware of the Internet in your sales process
It’s important to note that the digital revolution has impacted the sales process dramatically. Research from Google and advisory company CEB, titled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing, provides new insight into buyer behaviour.
According to the study, customers reported being nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point. Up to 57% of the sales process just disappears. What are buyers doing if they’re not talking to sales?
They’re surfing corporate websites to identify and qualify vendors instead of waiting for the sales team to qualify them. They are using social media to learn more about their needs, potential solutions and providers, and they’re reading, listening to, and watching free digital content that is available to them at the click of a mouse. No longer is the sales force the sole source of information.
It’s becoming increasingly important for sales to transition from being a ‘product pusher’ to an ’insight provider‘ adding value to the buyers’ business.
What does this mean for the sales organisation? No matter whether your sales team numbers one, three or 300, if those people are simply walking, talking product brochures, trying to tell a prospect why your product is better than another, they are going to lose.
Customers, or prospects in this case, know what your product does and what your competitors’ products do, and they may even know that better than the sales person does. So then what is the role of the sales person?
A look at sales metrics
Sales metrics are used to understand the effectiveness of marketing and sales activities and the efficiency of the sales process. They are all the things that a sales organisation needs to do to greatly increase the likelihood of achieving target.
The starting point
- Start with territory alignment, territory management and sales force sizing
- What is the size of your total available market?
- How many people do you need to maximise reach into this market?
- What is the achievable revenue?
- What is the average deal size?
- How many appointments do you need so that you can submit proposals and increase the possibility of closing those deals?
An appointment can be a follow-up to check that what you have sold to someone has been delivered. It could be an appointment that forms part of the way you engage to find a solution and close the deal.
- How many calls do you need to make every week to secure those appointments?
- How many deals do you need to close to achieve target?
- How big should your pipeline of prospects be? This is the number of companies you’re engaging with who may potentially buy your product.
- The sales metrics must be predetermined and inspected and reviewed regularly, daily or at the very least, weekly.
Sales metrics are always related to the target
- If the sales person has a target of R100 000 per month and the average size deal is R20 000, they will have to close five deals a month to achieve target.
- Working backwards from that, and depending on the industry, let’s say 20 appointments per month are required in order to close five deals.
- This means your sales person is closing one out of four. If you prospect and qualify correctly, your team may be able close one out of three. Having the figures to hand can help you shorten the sales cycle and raise performance to deliver a phenomenal increase in revenue.
- Metrics also display how much progress has been made towards the goal of closing the deal.
Developing sales metrics ensures a systematic process you can repeat over time and begin to perfect.
The best way to track metrics is to have a CRM system in place, but the software will mean nothing if you do not have a process in place for how that information is entered into the system.
Diaries need to be populated correctly. If you’re reading this article, take a look at the diaries of your sales force, see how much white space there is, and ask what that sales person is doing during their ‘white space’ time. You will be shocked at the low levels of activity!
Diaries should be colourful and vibrant: Blue for appointments, red for admin, green for follow-ups, whatever colours you choose. And if you see a number of appointments being made for 3.00pm, do your company a favour and give one of those prospects a call to find out how the meeting went. That may well be your second surprise!
Being a trusted advisor; mediocrity to excellence
Develop a culture within your sales organisation by transforming your sales reps from sellers to advisors. By advisor I mean a person who can accompany the prospect through a process of discovery and diagnosis of their needs, talking very little along the way and rather asking intelligent questions to ascertain what that person’s real need is and to expose them to fresh, new ideas — and ultimately to highlight the cost of not changing as well as the real benefits of changing.
It’s not about selling; it’s about ascertaining true need and finding a solution.
This consultative approach to selling starts with the people you employ and the moment they join the organisation. It’s about a culture and that starts with the owner of the business.
How are you as a leader? Is trust fundamental to the way you operate? If you as the leader of a business do not elicit trust-based character traits it’s going to be a barrier to your own selling success and that of your team. That’s because the only differentiator you have in today’s commoditised economy is not your product or your service.
You can differentiate only through adding value to that prospect’s life by being a trusted advisor. Do not sell for yourself; go out there and engage for the betterment of your customer. And it all begins with your sales process.
Developing sales discipline through inspection and metrics
If you do not have a manual with the processes, methodologies and structures in place you are unable to monitor, review and coach your sales team and discipline will be lacking or non-existent. It’s as simple as that.
To quote the late Chet Holmes, ”What you do not inspect, they do not respect.“ If you want your team to respect your policies or processes, make sure they know what you expect, all of this outlined in your process manual. You will be truly amazed at the results that will follow.